I bought my first car when I was fifteen years old. My dad had it dragged back to our garage, and
I spent the next year – until I was old enough to drive – taking the car apart,
fixing it, and eventually putting it back together again.
But since the garage attached to our suburban Columbus home held
only two cars, that meant someone’s car had to stay outside.
That arrangement probably won’t work at your house, but if
you’ve got more cars than garages, what can you do?
|My First Car|
If you have the luxury of space on your property you can
always build a bigger garage, or add more bays to the garage you already have.
Three-car garages are the norm for most of the homes we work on, and some of
our clients require four or more.
But if space is tight, a car lift might do the trick,
especially if one of your cars isn’t on the road much. A lift doubles your garage space by stacking
one car over the other.
Different Lifts for
There are about nine different types of residential car
lifts on the market today. Most are
hydraulic, and a few are chain-driven. Most run on 110 or 220v power, and are easily wired into your garage.
Generally, lifts fall into one of two categories – service,
and parking. Service lifts are designed
to give a home mechanic easy access to the underside of the car, and use either
a “single post” or a “two post” structure to lift the car.
Some parking lifts don’t allow access to the underside of your
car – the car sits on a platform that keeps fluids from leaking onto the car
below. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a
service lift to store your cars – but you’ll want to find another way to
protect the car below.
Protect Your “Fair
Here in Ohio the weather’s great about six months out of the
year. But there are a couple of other months when we fight snow and ice with a
car’s worst enemy – road salt.
You know what damage road salt does, so you’re not going to
drive your vintage Corvette, or your Cobra replica, or your new 918 in it. In fact, you’re not even going to take a car
like that out of the garage until Spring.
|A Bendpak Parking Lift|
So let’s get that car detailed, then get it up and out of
An excellent parking lift for that fair-weather car is the Bendpak
. It’s a compact lift that easily raises 6,000 pounds of sports car
on a full deck that protects the car below.
If you have larger cars, and a little more width and
headroom in your garage, a four-post lift like the Eagle MS-8000
might work better.
Making sure there’s enough floor space for the lift is the
first step in deciding which lift to purchase; checking the headroom above is
next. A hydraulic parking lift like the Bendpak
requires the least headroom but only stores smaller cars.
A typical four-post lift holds larger vehicles, but takes up
more vertical space.
With either, it’s not just the clearance from the garage
floor to the ceiling that matters. It’s
also the clearance to the garage door tracks and opener, and to the garage door
itself when it’s open. In a new home,
it’s typical to specify a “high lift” garage door track installation to make
room for the lift.
|An Eagle Four-Post Parking Lift|
When you’re adding a lift to an existing home, it gets a
little trickier – you might not have enough room for the higher garage
door. Usually, a compact hydraulic
parking lift will fit – but always check clearances carefully first.
So now you’ve determined that there’s enough floor space and
enough headroom for your car lift. Just
one more thing to figure out – can your garage floor hold the weight?
A four-post lift weighs about 1,700 pounds, spread equally
on each post. Add the roughly 3,500
pounds of a Corvette, and you’ve got 1,300 pounds on each post.
Generally, residential concrete slabs are more than strong
enough to handle that load, but there are still some things you need to check
with an existing slab:
Is the concrete in good shape? A cracked or badly spalled slab won’t have
the strength you need.
Is there a joint or slab edge near any of the
posts? Joints and edges are the weakest
parts of the slab.
Is the slab level? If not, you may need to shim the lift – it
must be perfectly level. A sloping slab can also indicate serious problems
If there’s reason to suspect an existing slab’s strength,
you may need to install footings below the posts. In a new garage, a
well-constructed 4” thick slab is usually fine.
Costs, Quality, and
If the cost of storing your fair-weather car is paramount, a
lift will always be cheaper than building additional garage space. Car lifts top out around $3,500 plus
installation, but a new garage will be at least ten times that.
But don’t buy a lift based on cost alone – using a lift puts
two cars at risk, so you want the best you can buy. The best lifts are certified by the Automotive Lift Institute
, an organization
that determines whether a lift meets industry standards. Certified lifts display the ALI gold label.
A lift also puts your
safety at risk if it’s not installed and used properly. Make sure your new lift
has the proper safety features, and have it professionally installed.
Dad made the garage sacrifice years ago – his car stayed
outside while I worked on my first car inside.
Today I’m the dad - and there’s a “project car” in my garage, waiting
for the day when my sons and l have time to finish restoring it. We’re gonna need a lift.
Need expert Residential Architectural advice for your new home or remodeling project? Contact Richard Taylor, AIA at RTA Studio Architects to arrange a meeting or an online consultation.
Labels: Auto lift, storing cars